Saturday 1 January 2022

New Year's Day post...

It’s early on New Year’s Day, and I’m sipping a cup of “Oh Christmas Tea” tea and nibbling on a delicious Date Bar as I review my year in books, a great way to start the new year.

I have three books to tell you about, then I’ll give you my “Best Reads of 2021”.  The first book I read last week was Anthony Horowitz’s mystery, A Line to Kill, which is the third book in the “Detective Daniel Hawthorne” series.  In this book, Horowitz and Hawthorne are paired up once again but this time, rather than setting out to solve a murder, they’re heading to the isolated island of Alderney to take part in a second-rate literary festival to promote their upcoming book.  It looks as if the weekend will be uneventful but, following a large reception at the home of the island’s wealthiest resident, a body is discovered and an investigation ensues.  Who could have committed this murder, and why?  There are plenty of suspects and plenty of reasons to want this person dead, and what follows is a clever mystery worthy of Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I finished this book in a day and a half, and found it to be an easy read, a cozy mystery that really demonstrated Horowitz’s amazing skill with language. 

I also read a Forest of Reading Red Maple nominee, Birdspell by Valerie Sherrard.  This novel tells the story of middle-school student Corbin Hayes, who has been dealing with his mother’s mental illness on his own for as long as he can remember.  When a classmate at his latest school tells him that she needs to rehouse her pet parrot, Corbin jumps at the chance to have the one thing he’s missed out on his whole life - a friend, someone he can talk to, something that is consistent in his life.  Things seem to be coming together for him, but then they take a turn for the worst and begin to spiral out of control.  Will Corbin be able to manage this on his own, and if so, at what cost?  This was a really interesting book, an easy read that dealt with a difficult topic with sensitivity and compassion in a way that children could understand and relate to.  I’m really glad I read this and will definitely promote it to my students.

And I read a thriller by Joshilyn Jackson, Mother May I, that was pretty unputdownable.  Bree and her husband Trey seem to have it all, a happy marriage, financial security, two lovely teenaged daughters and a newborn “surprise” son, Robert.  Bree wakes one night and thinks she sees a witch peeking in through her curtains, but she puts this down to her hormones and her upbringing steeped in her mother’s paranoia.  When she thinks she catches a glimpse of the same woman in the parking lot of the school later that day, she really begins to question her own perceptions.  Then the unthinkable happens:  her son is abducted and she must follow the directions of this vile woman if she ever wants to see him again.  What follows is a murder, an impossible bargain, and an exploration into how far a mother might go to save her child.  This novel was a real page-turner, offering snippets of Trey’s past and one woman’s thirst for revenge.  It had a complex plot and moved along at a good pace, unfolding slowly and revealing just enough information at any one time to keep me reading.  If Jackson’s books didn’t rely so heavily on the themes of marriage and motherhood, I would probably read more of them, but I found it to be too much in this book and just skimmed those sections.  Still, it was an intense read and I could certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well-plotted, complex thriller with a satisfying end.

OK, to wrap up 2021, I’ve read 58 books and listened to 29 audiobooks last year. Here are my favourites:

Best Adult books:

The Benjamenta College of Art by Alan Reed Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng When She was Good by Michael Robotham This Fallen Prey/Stranger in Town by Kelley Amrstrong (two “Rockton” books) Downfall by Robert Rotenberg The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith Fragrant Harbour by John Lanchester The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz Version Zero by David Yoon Matters of Hart by Marianne Ackerman Why Birds Sing by Nina Berkhout When You are Mine by Michael Robotham Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella The Nazi Officer’s Wife: how one Jewish woman survived the Holocaust by Edith Hahn-Beer (NF) The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting:  Wannsee and the Final Solution by Mark Roseman (NF)

Best Children’s and Young Adult books:

Pretend She’s Here by Luanne Rice (YA)  The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA) The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith (YA) Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri (YA) Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix (JUV)

Best Audiobooks:

The Huntress by Kate Quinn A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong *The Witch Elm by Tana French (on a previous “best-of” list) A Spy Among Friends by Ben MacIntyre (NF) Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown The Broken Girls by Simone St James A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki We Were Liars by E Lockhart (YA) The Gown by Jennifer Robson Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

WOW, looking at these lists, I see that more than a third of the books and audiobooks from last year deserved to be highlighted. That's great news and must mean that I've been selecting my reading material with a discerning eye (or ear!).

That’s all for today.  Have a Happy New Year!  I hope 2022 is filled with plenty of steaming cups of tea and lots of books that are unputdownable!

Bye for now…

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